Middlemarch – George Eliot

Book: Middlemarch
Author: George Eliot
Publisher: I read the Bantam Books version and also listened to the Audiobook read by Kate Reading
791 pages
My Rating: 4/5 stars

What can I say about Miss George Eliot and her masterpiece, Middlemarch? This is a novel that frequently shows up on the 100 Top Novels of All Time-type lists and is EPIC in every sense of the word. I really enjoyed Silas Marner, so a few years ago I picked up this book and started reading. I gave up after Book 4. I even did a nationwide interlibrary loan search for the unabridged audiobook to help me get through but alas, it was not meant to be. Once I actually found the audiobook I never went back to it.

When Ellie, a friend of mine on Shelfari mentioned that she was going to read the book I told her I was in and was determined to finish it this time. Every two weeks, we read a book (there are eight total). Part of the way through, I found Lydia from The Literary Lollipop’s Middlemarch Read-a-Long and yes, I was ecstatic. Her summaries were awesome and it really did appear that she might be doing the read-a-long all by herself so Ellie and I joined in on her weekly posts. Every week for probably 12 weeks we all got together on Lydia’s blog and chatted in the comments about these Middlemarchers who were, let’s face it, kind of a mess. Sure, the scandal was tame compared to today, but these people were hapless. Whether it was Dorothea marrying that stick-in-the-mud, Casaubon or Rosamund and her spendthrifty ways, we were consistently flabbergasted, bored, and entertained through this 800+ page tome.

Don’t get me wrong. The three of us struggled through parts of this book while other parts had us turning the pages because we couldn’t believe what was happening. We weathered it and made it through. It felt like we formed a special bond that only Middlemarch Read-a-Longers could form. Yup…it was that special when we finished. Lydia even said she felt like we deserved t-shirts that said, “I survived Middlemarch and all I got was this t-shirt.” I suggested, “To the well with her!” referring to Rosamund’s horrific behavior combined with a shout-out to Silas Marner. We joked, we threw up our hands in exasperation, and then we signed up for Lydia’s next read-a-long of The Count of Monte Cristo because even though it wasn’t the fastest read (it took 4 months!), we had great fun going through it all together. I even posted this video in the comments on Lydia’s very last Middlemarch post:


Oh yes, it was that special. I did a little jig. I threw my hands up in the air when I was done. I think it’s possible that Ellie and Lydia did as well (although you would have to ask them if they did actually do that. While I would never, ever pick up Middlemarch ever again, I did enjoy reading it with my new friends and I will gladly pick up any read-a-long with these ladies because they helped me finish this book that is simply one of the bigger reading accomplishments of my life. So thank you Ellie and Lydia for taking this journey with me and pushing me to finish this book!

Lastly, I do want to plug The Literary Lollipop’s next read-a-long of The Count of Monte Cristo. The first post goes up on October 13 and will cover the first five chapters of the book—totally doable! There are a lot of people who have told me that Alexandre Dumas is daunting. At 1300 pages, I will agree that this book is daunting, but it is so fun to read together. I will NOT be posting weekly posts like Lydia is doing. My comments will all be made in her weekly posts because honestly, I like doing it that way. I like the feeling that we are sitting around chatting about the book over coffee in one place instead of bouncing back and forth from blog to blog, AND Lydia does far better summaries than I could ever do. So if you are looking for my comments on The Count of Monte Cristo, you’ll see them in The Literary Lollipop’s weekly posts on the book and you’ll just see a post like this from me in five months time about the fun we had reading together. I can’t wait!

Yes, I know. This ridiculously long book just wasn’t enough for me so I watched the BBC mini-series that starred Rufus Sewell as well. Six-plus hours of Middlemarchers in addition to the 26 CDs I listened to while reading along in the book sounds like a perfect way to finish off this book. It was! The series was actually pretty good even though it left enough out that I didn’t really connect well with the characters the way I did with the book. The cast was pretty superb. They were all what I envisioned the characters to look like and behaved the way I thought they would.

There were things that were done VERY well. The politics and societal changes were much more interesting in the movie than in the book. I found myself wandering in the book when they would talk about medicine or building a railroad, but the movie held my attention during the talks about Parliament and the railroad. It made more sense to me as well to see it played out by actors rather than just reading about it.

Other things I was disappointed in. Rosamund’s story with Will Ladislaw was played down and that was one of the best parts of the book! Will Ladislaw’s speech to Rosamund toward the end of the book was completely missing from the movie and it was so passionate and well done. His talks with Dorothea toward the end of the book were also missing so all that dramatic romance was missing. It was sad. It was one of the better parts of the book.

All in all, I think you could get a good idea of the book by watching the film and while it’s not a replacement for the book, it’s a great way to supplement it or I would recommend it as a way to determine whether or not you think the book is something you want to explore.
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